CARLSBAD — Driving more than 750,000 miles without even a fender-bender mishap, dealing with grumpy people and fake IDs, performing life-saving techniques on strangers, pulling drunk drivers off of the streets, arresting burglars, vandals and scam artists and solving a murder mystery after nearly a decade are some of the things the city’s police department employees were recognized for at their annual awards ceremony on Feb. 8.Carlsbad Police Chief Gary Morrison, who came aboard in 2010, praised the officers for their hard work.“We had four homicides last year and within 24 to 48 hours the majority of suspects were in custody,” he said.One of those suspects is Michael David Robles, of Fallbrook, who is accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend on Thanksgiving eve, the night before her 34th birthday.
Kathleen Scharbarth’s body was located within 36 hours of the start of an investigation into her disappearance, and Morrison said that was due to great work by Officer James Willis, who was a nominee for the Officer of the Year.
“He got a confession from the suspect to where the victim was buried,” Morrison said.
Willis also helped solve an assault case that took place on a North County bus when he contacted San Diego’s Most Wanted with the suspect’s video surveillance photo after a Be On the Lookout bulletin didn’t produce results, Morrison said.
Capt. Bill Rowland introduced Patrol Officer Derek Harvey as the other nominee for the prestigious award.
Harvey has given 20 years of service to Carlsbad, is the department’s “go-to” technology expert and helped crack a high-profile cold case.
“One of Officer Harvey’s greatest accomplishments was securing the conviction of the killer of Gladys Conrad,” Rowland said.
A retired psychiatrist was found murdered and sexually assaulted in her apartment on Sept. 1, 2001, and the homicide went unsolved for years until the suspect Alejandro Avalos Fernandez, 32, was identified and finally sentenced on Jan. 6, 2011, to 34-years-to-life in prison.
Harvey was announced as the recipient of the Police Officer of the Year award and received a standing ovation from the room filled with family, friends and co-workers.
“It’s kind of like the ending page of a book,” Harvey said later during an interview. “It’s the end.”
He said he had been on the case since the beginning, which was Labor Day weekend, and remembers the city being packed with visitors.
“As we processed the scene, we had no idea who we were looking for. It only took nine years,” he said.
But he said that a district attorney told him that he was lucky to see the cold case solved while he was still working his career.
Harvey said he still has 10 years left until he retires and that he’s having fun being back on the patrol assignment.
But there is one thing that lingers in the now-closed Conrad case that he worked on for its duration.
“The one answer I would love to hear from the suspect is ‘why’?” he said.
A lifesaving award was given to Officers Brendan Kidd and Reid Shipley for performing life-saving CPR on a newborn baby.
Lt. Kelly Cain said award-winning community members Jill Tarman and Patrick Beaty assisted police in identifying a suspect who was arrested for a burglary series that targeted elderly victims.
Officer Adam Young received the DUI Officer of the Year Award for arresting 305 drunk drivers in 2011, and his lieutenant said that even included Young being on the “day watch.”
Young also received the police Safe Driving award for hitting the 15-year mark and having a blemish-free driving record.
City Councilman Keith Blackburn, who began his career with the Carlsbad Police Department in 1987, was honored with the Reserve Police Officer of the Year award for his dedication that includes working Friday and Saturday evenings and holidays.
Other awards presented:
— Civilian employees of the year in the department’s records division are Lydia Deets, Mollie Dentoni, Diane Anderson, Michelle Smith, Patrick Wilhelm and Joy Hook.
— Supervisor of the Year is Delphine Fisk, records division.
— Police Explorer of the Year is Colleen McMahon
— Senior Volunteer of the Year is Clark Vollbrecht
— Station Volunteer of the Year is Paul Smith
Police department members were also recognized for educational achievement and distinguished service.